St Christopher Symbolism

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The figure of Christopher on display at the Middle Ages and Renaissance wing of the Rijksmuseum is an oak sculpture depicting the eponymous saint. Dated circa 1520 AD, the sculpture portrays Saint Christopher as a bearded man wading through a river with his right leg placed in front of his left. With both hands, he holds on to a staff crafted from a tree trunk. From this, Saint Christopher bends the right side of his upper body to lean slightly forward. He also looks up to the child on his back, who speaks to him with his right hand raised and his left hand holding on to a lock of Saint Christopher’s hair. The name “Christopher” means Christ-bearer, alluding to the legend of the man carrying the Christ Child across the river. Saint Christopher…show more content…
In a time when icons were popular in Eastern Europe, images of Christ were considered as holy objects since they were used to assist with praying. Furthermore, because icons were generally small objects with portraits of Christ or a saint, they were generally heavily imbued with symbolism. Thus, depictions of Christ tended to boldly emphasize his divinity through symbols, often illustrating Christ in an elevated status such as depicting him wearing imperial purple robes or casting him against a gold background, which was symbolic of the heavenly realm. Furthermore, similar to the Christ Child, the motif of the hand of benediction is commonly seen. One of the most iconic images of Christ produced in Byzantine art is the Christ Pantocrator, in which the hand gesture is also prominently displayed. However, the hand gesture portrayed is a variation from the one portrayed on the Christ Child. In every depiction of the Christ Pantocrator, Christ’s “index finger points upward, forming an ‘I.’ The middle finger is curved to form a ‘C.’ The fourth finger crosses over the thumb to form an ‘X,’ while the little finger is curved in a manner similar to that of the middle finger, thereby forming another ‘C.’” (Orthodox Church in America). Thus, the five fingers spell out “IC XC”, the abbreviation of the Greek name of Jesus Christ, formed from taking the first and last letters of both parts of his name. By combining the hand gesture of blessing with Christ’s name, there is a closer association of Christ with the

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